Category Archives: Humility

Do We Reject Science When Scientists Behave Badly?

It is curious to me when Christianity is rejected because of the bad behavior of people. There are complaints about religious wars, crusades, inquisitions, sexual abuse scandals and any number of hypocrisies of “religious people.” Somehow, these complaints are allowed to cancel out the good that Christianity has brought to the world. It seems as though the examples of the Saints, the hospitals, the universities, the scientific advances, the charitable contributions, the spiritual enlightenment, the eternal salvation of souls and any other good that stems from Christianity is cast aside.

The reverse is true for science and technology. Few people reject science or technology because of the atomic bomb, weapons of mass destruction, pollution, social disconnection, or the dehumanization of the person. It does not seem to matter much when people behave badly with science and technology. People still embrace science and technology and extend the benefit of the doubt. In fact, despite whatever evils may have been perpetrated in the name of science or technology, people expect such endeavors to somehow be the salvation of us all.

We need to be consistent. The reality of human nature is that people have the ability to behave badly with any gift given to them. Science and religion can both be abused. Why reject only one of them?

I suspect that focusing on the bad behavior of people can be a convenient excuse for avoiding the humility, holiness and submission that successful Christianity demands. Focusing on the good that science and technology brings strokes our pride and makes us feel in control. We don’t need God because we become “little gods” that are masters of our own destiny. We like our smart phones. We don’t like holiness. We’re afraid that holiness will restrict our freedom. Yet, we are willing to become slaves to science, technology, and our own pride.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

If the idea of “people behaving badly” keeps one away from Christianity, it should just as well keep one away from science and technology. If one focuses on the good, however, there is no reason to reject either one.

Self

Self awareness is good. I must pay attention to my body, my thoughts and my soul. I must know myself and know how I may be affecting myself and those around me for better or for worse.

Self care is good. My body, my mind and my soul are gifts given to me. I must take good care of these gifts and not neglect them or abuse them.

Self control is good. I am responsible for managing my emotions and for choosing my thoughts and my actions. No one else can do this for me.

Self-centeredness is not good. I am not the center of all things; God is. My life must revolve around God. God is love. Love includes self, but love is not centered on self. Love must ultimately be centered on others.

Stones In Our Hands And Logs In Our Eyes

Luke 6:37 tells us not to judge.  But, we can’t stop there, because Matt 7:1-5 spells things out in more detail.  The message is that we are not to be judgmental hypocrites.  There’s no point trying to remove a speck from someone’s eye if you have a huge log in your own eye.  First, take care of your own sins.  Then, you have the proper perspective to help someone else grow spiritually.

When you make judgments about certain behaviors or attitudes, remember that you will be held to the same standard you are using.  For example, there’s no point in judging someone’s lies if you yourself make a habit of lying.  There’s no point in judging someone for watching or making pornographic videos if you yourself entertain pornographic thoughts and images in your own mind.  Don’t look with disdain upon someone who gossips if you gossip, too.  Clean up your own act before trying to help another clean up theirs.

Jesus took this to an even higher level in John 8 when he told an accusing crowd, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”  After those who wanted to condemn her had all left, Jesus said to the woman who had sinned, “I’m not going to condemn you, either.  Go, and sin no more.”

The crowd knew that the woman had sinned.  Jesus also knew she had sinned.  Jesus did not admonish the crowd for recognizing and hating sin.  We are supposed to recognize and hate sin (otherwise we can’t get the logs out of our own eyes).  Jesus admonished the crowd for not recognizing and hating their own sins and for wanting to condemn the woman for hers.  So, Jesus showed us the better way.  Recognize and hate sin, but treat sinners with love and mercy rather than condemnation.  We’re all sinners.  We all want love and mercy when we sin.  We should apply the “Golden Rule.”  Any condemnation is God’s decision, not ours.

“Go, and sin no more.”  Victory over sin is the ultimate goal of God’s love and mercy.  Notice, Jesus did not say, “I don’t condemn you, either, and I never will, so go ahead and keep sinning.”  If we continue to prefer sin over God’s love and mercy, condemnation may very well be the result.  Jesus left the woman with her free will and the choice to either obey him or ignore him.

In summary:  Hate the sin but love the sinner.  We are all sinners and need empathy for each other.  Make sure you hate and address your own sins, first (regular confession and genuine repentance).  Leave condemnation up to God (if you throw a stone it may bounce back and hit you).  Don’t condone sin in yourself or in others (judge behaviors, not souls).  The ultimate goal for all of us is to “go and sin no more.”

Looking Up, Not Down

The moment I place myself “up here” and someone else “down here,” lower than me, I have denied my faith.  When I look upon any other human being with contempt, I have denied my faith.  Regardless of what another’s sins may be, I have my own to repent of.

I must look up to everyone from a lower position, because I must see Christ in them.  If I look down on them, I look down on Christ.  Pride destroys the soul.

I must judge behaviors, for I must know right from wrong in order to strive for holiness.  But I cannot judge souls.  Only God knows the hearts of people.  Only God judges the soul.

God does not raise us up by looking down on us.  He raises us by lowering himself and looking up at us with love.  This is what the Christian is called to do, because we are called to follow Christ.

Faith does not last.  In Heaven we won’t need faith, for we will see everything.  Hope does not last.  In Heaven we won’t need hope, for we will have arrived.  Only charitable love lasts forever, for God is love.  Faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love.

I cannot look down on others from a genuine vantage point of faith and hope.  I can only look up to them in love.  Otherwise, my faith and my hope are phony imitations.

Christian Unity: When Will We Learn?

My fellow Christians, why are we divided?  Do we not all believe that Jesus is the Messiah?  Do we not all have access to the same Bibles?  Do we not all know the Apostles’ Creed?  Do we not all read the words of Jesus and the Apostles?  Why are these things not enough to keep us united in spiritual battle?  What do we lack?  Why are we not “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” as Paul admonished us to be?

We lack that which transforms a great horde into a well-oiled, disciplined, effective army:  allegiance to a central chain of command.  We also lack the holiness that comes from being disciplined and united.  How can we preach holiness while maintaining division?  The two are not compatible.  A divided army simply does not fight well.  Holiness is what we use to wage spiritual warfare.  Division is not holy.  Our lips profess allegiance to Christ, but our actions show division, contention and strife.

When will we learn that Jesus established a visible Church hierarchy, a chain of command for all Christians to follow and be accountable to?  We cannot be united while preaching and teaching different doctrines.  We cannot be united while following leaders that oppose each other.  When will we learn that unity requires humility and the swallowing of pride?  Soldiers must learn to follow orders that they may not agree with or fully understand.  When will we learn that we cannot worship wherever and however we want?  Worship cannot be invented by us.  Christian worship has been instituted by Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  We cannot effectively function as different parts of the same Body if we are not fully united to that Body.  When will we learn that being Christian is not about choosing one’s preferences from a smorgasbord of doctrinal options, but about being obedient to the Faith?  One Lord, one Faith, one baptism.

When will we learn that genuine Christian unity will elude us until we reverse the perpetual, explosive trend of protest and division and return to the central command of Peter’s chair?

Rom 16:17, 1Cor 1:10, 1Cor 3:3, 1Cor 11:18, Matt 16:18

Love Means Sometimes Having To Say You’re Sorry Out Loud

Imagine that you were born in a primitive part of the world that had no access to technology.  Imagine that you had never seen a cell phone or a television or a radio.  Then one day, a stranger showed up in your land.  Somehow, this stranger knew your language, and he told you about the place he was from and some of the people he knew.  Intrigued, you said to the stranger, “I would like to meet some of those other people, too.”  “Of course,” said the stranger, “I will ask them to come join us.”  Then, the stranger pulled out a little, square, black object from his pocket and began to speak to it.  After putting the object back into his pocket, the stranger said, “They will be here tomorrow morning to meet you.”

Confused, and thinking this person might have a screw loose, you said to the stranger, “I thought you were going to talk to your friends about coming to visit.”  “Yes,” said the stranger, “I just spoke to them.”  “No, you didn’t, you spoke to that thing in your pocket.”  “Well, that is a phone.  It allows me to communicate with my friends.”  “You mean you don’t have to speak directly to your friends?  You can speak to that little phone and it does everything for you?”  Well, no,” explains the stranger, “I was actually speaking to my friends through the phone.  The phone is an instrument through which I speak directly to my friends.”

After a crash course in basic technology you begin to understand how the phone operates.  Once you understand about radio waves and electronic speakers, transmitters and receivers, you can see just how much sense it makes.  At first it seemed like the stranger was a confused, crazy person talking to a little black box.  Now it seems like a good idea.

In a similar way, non-Catholics (and even some Catholics) think it is unnecessary and even silly to confess one’s sins to a priest rather than going “directly to God.”  What is misunderstood is that Catholics are going “directly to God” when they confess to a priest.  The priest is merely God’s chosen instrument.  God realizes that we, being physical and spiritual creations, benefit from actually speaking our sins out loud to another and hearing the words of absolution audibly spoken back to us.

When Jesus walked the earth 2000 years ago, His followers got to use their physical mouths to speak to Him and their physical ears to hear Him say, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Jesus did not communicate to them strictly through telepathic or “spiritual” means.  He spoke and listened like a man to other men and women.  2000 years later, Catholics still have access to this gift through the priest.  Jesus is right there the whole time.  Jesus listens and Jesus forgives through His instrument, the Priest.  This is the system established by Christ.  It is the way Christians are to find forgiveness (especially for mortal sins) apart from “emergency” situations that I will not cover here.  Suffice it to say that the normal way to drive a two lane highway is to not cross the solid, center line.  In certain emergencies, crossing the center line might be necessary.  The normal or “ordinary” way for Christians to find forgiveness for sins (particularly mortal sins) is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But there is no reason to avoid the Sacrament for venial sins as well (even though these can be forgiven apart from the Sacrament of Reconciliation).

In a sort of reversal of the phone analogy, people today see the Sacrament of Reconciliation as “obsolete technology.”  In other words, why pick up the “phone” to call someone when you can just instantly “be” with that person (i.e. Jesus in spirit).  “We can talk directly to Jesus anywhere!  Why do we need this ancient, “go-between” priest nonsense?”  This attitude is an outgrowth of the “Jesus and me” theology that is so prevalent today.  This theology emphasizes a one-on-one relationship with Christ at the expense of the corporate, familial, sacramental reality of the Church.  This can be seen in the attitude that says, “As long as I’m not hurting anyone else, it’s ok.”  But sin is not just between the sinner and God.  Sin hurts the entire Body.  If one member of the Body is sick, the whole Body suffers.

We humans tend to deceive ourselves and justify our sins.  It’s too easy to “talk to Jesus” about things and not be truly honest with ourselves.  We can too readily fashion Jesus into who we want Him to be.  We don’t like to confront and admit sin.  The priest can help us discern if we are being too hard or too easy on ourselves.  So then, why not just talk to a trusted friend or a therapist?  We can derive some psychological benefit from doing so, but Christ did not give the authority to “bind and loose” to your friends or to therapists.  Christ did not say to your friends or your therapist, “Whosoever sins you forgive are forgiven and whosoever sins you retain are retained.”  Christ gave that authority to specific men in His Church and to their successors.

It is one thing to “be sorry” and another thing to “say you are sorry” (despite what the Movie Love Story might want us to believe).  I see this frequently in my counseling office.  People tend to be defensive and avoid admitting their faults.  Getting an apology from some folks is like pulling teeth.  So many marriages would be a lot happier if both partners knew how to apologize and how to graciously accept an apology.  As earlier stated, sin affects not only the sinner, but the entire Church, His Body.  Therefore, Christ wants us to make our apology and find healing through the Church, His Body.  He wants us to do the real work of humility and actually speak our sins out loud to the Church.  He wants us to make a full apology through His Church.

When Jesus healed the blind man, He made mud with spit and dirt, put it on the man’s eyes and then told him, “Go wash in the pool.”  Imagine the blind man saying, “Forget all this mud and washing nonsense, just heal me now, Jesus!”  No, the blind man did as Jesus instructed and was healed.  Jesus often gave specific instructions to those He healed.  Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever hears you hears me,” and “Whosoever sins you forgive are forgiven, whosoever sins you retain are retained.”  Yet, we often say to Jesus, “No, I don’t want to go through that process to call upon your Name, express my personal belief in You and find healing for my soul.  It’s too humiliating, too inconvenient, too old fashioned, too complicated, too messy.  I want to do it my way.  Just forgive me now, Jesus.  I don’t need Your apostles or their successors or any of Your Church getting in the way of my relationship with You.”

For The Husbands

I’ve had a request for some ideas for husbands in terms of marriage and spiritual leadership.  I decided to create a list of ten things (in no particular order) that regularly come up in counseling sessions, daily life and in spiritual conversations.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  I personally have a lot of work to do.  We all do.  The point is to know what needs work and then work on it.  Keep in mind that doing these things can be fun.  Just because it takes some effort doesn’t mean it has to be drudgery.  It all depends on your attitude.  The rewards are well worth it.  So, here you go husbands.  I hope you find something useful here.

1)      Mutual submission:

A lot is said about wives submitting to husbands.  Yet, husbands are also called to submission.  Jesus Christ is the model.  He is the Bridegroom.  How does the Bridegroom behave towards his Bride, the Church?  He does not consider his position as God (the ultimate leader) as something to be grasped at, but humbles himself as a slave.*  Are you that way towards your bride, or are you constantly trying to dominate and overrule her choices and opinions?  Jesus submitted to the point of death for his Bride.  “Husbands, love your wives, as Jesus Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it.”*  Would you die for your bride?  Are you willing to let even a small part of you “die” so that she can have her way?  Do you sacrifice with joy or do you allow resentment to build in your heart?

2)      Non-sexual touch and affection:

If your wife thinks you want sex every time you touch her, that’s a problem.  She needs hugs, kisses, hand-holding and physical closeness that has no “sexual strings” attached.  Many men regard women as sexual objects to be used for their own pleasure.  Not good.  Your wife is a person, a human being, a child of God, not a blow-up doll.  Treat her accordingly.  Jesus treated women with respect.  Follow his lead.  Find out what she likes.  It won’t do much good to hold her hand if she doesn’t like hand-holding.  When you know what she likes, you know her.  Then you can deliver the affection, with no expectations of having sex.

3)      Kind, respectful speech and humor:

No name-calling, even when you are angry and frustrated.  No name-calling.  No curse words.  Do not swear at your wife or your children.  Speak to them as Jesus would speak to the Church, with love.  Don’t say hurtful things to your wife and then try to cover it up with, “I was only kidding around.”  Don’t say things you will wish you could retract.  Oh, and did I say, “No name-calling?”  Bridle your tongue.*

4)      Eye contact and undivided attention:

When your wife speaks, listen, even if you think it is not relevant to you.  If you are unable to listen for some valid reason, tell her so.  Tell her you want to hear about it, and that you will listen as soon as you get a chance.  Then, keep that promise.  Also, give her eye contact.  Mute the TV, pause the game, whatever you have to do to look her in the eye and really listen.  If you forget what she said a few minutes ago, you probably weren’t really listening.  Develop your listening skills if you want to be a good husband.

5)      Conversation:

Being a good listener is part of being a good conversationalist.  Yeah, I know, men are all about “report” (just give me the facts) and women are all about “rapport” (let’s be in synch with each other mentally and emotionally).  So, conversation means different things to men and women.  That’s why men generally have shorter phone calls than women (get the gist of things and hang up).  Nevertheless, men, try to develop your rapport with your wife.  Listen and respond with more than a grunt.  Be happy with her when she’s happy.  Be sad with her when she’s sad.  Show some empathy.  Tune in.

6)      Follow through on promises, big and small:

Be faithful to your wedding vows.  That’s a big one.  Take out the trash when you say, “Ok, I’ll take it out.”  That’s a small one.  A promise is a promise.  We can’t trust someone in big things if we can’t trust him in small things.*  By the way, fidelity also means getting rid of and avoiding pornography in your life, your home, your computer, your phone, etc.  We are all called to purity and chastity within our vocations whether we are married or single.  You chose one, special woman out of millions.  Love her and her alone.  Forsake all others, even the paper or cyber ones.  As the Scripture says, “Rejoice with the wife of your youth.  Let her breasts satisfy you at all times.”*  And, yes, guys, that means the Victoria’s Secret catalog needs to go, too.

7)      Acts of service:

Find out what means “love” to her.  Do it.  Say it.  Mean it.  If it’s washing her car, wash it.  If it’s flowers, get them.  If it’s taking the kids away so she can rest, take them.  Get the picture?

8)      Spiritual initiative:

“Man up” and be a holy, spiritual Christian man.  Jesus chose twelve, ordinary, “unlearned”* men to be his apostles.  Quit making the ladies and the clergy do all the “spiritual work.”  The clergy is only there to prepare us, the laity, to do the real work.  That means go to church, pray with your family, read and study your Bible and your Catechism, know your faith, share your faith and be prepared to defend it against secularism, relativism, hedonism and any other “ism” that distorts truth.  “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”*  That ought to make a guy feel like wielding the sword of the Spirit to defend his family from the powers of darkness.  Look at it this way: if you heard someone breaking into your home, would you send your wife to deal with it while you stayed in bed?

9)      If you have children, be active and engaged with them:

You are a role model, whether you want to be or not.  You are either a good one or a bad one.  Be a good one.  Love your children with your time, your attention, and your presence.  It isn’t enough to be a financial provider.  They need their dad, not just dad’s money.  It also shows that the sex you have with your wife means more to you than lust or physical pleasure.  It means that you and your wife share in God’s creative power together and God blessed that union by creating new human beings.  If you want to know why sex is sacred and not to be used, abused or taken for granted, spend time with your children and look deeply into their eyes.  Yep, that’s why God made sex.

10)  Ask your wife what she needs/wants/likes:

There is no better expert on how to treat your wife than…your wife.  No two people are the same.  No two wives are the same.  Talk to your wife.  Ask her how you are doing as a husband.  Ask her where you can improve, and then, actually work on it.  You and your wife decided to create something that never existed before; your marriage.  Your marriage is not there to serve you.  You are there to serve your marriage and your spouse.  Find out what you need to do better and what you are already doing well, for the sake of your marriage.  With a humble heart, ask God to help you.

 

*I’ll let you look up these Scriptures on your own.  Good way to show some initiative, men!